14. Me Too; I’m an Aberration Too
I didn't sleep that first night out there in the strange forest with the giant boulders that almost looked like they had faces on them. It was freezing and I was hungry and the crazy elf kept staring; I could feel his eyes burning into me even when I was turned away.
At one point he lay down behind me and draped an arm over my shoulder. I tried to push him off but I was shivering too hard and the warmth of his body actually felt good against me, counteracting the cold night air. Eventually the tremors subsided but I still couldn't sleep, not lying in the arms of my kidnapper.
The first rays of the sun burst over the horizon and glinted off the silver flecks in the stone beside us. Fëanor released me and jumped nimbly to his feet. I sat up slowly and hugged my knees to my chest. He narrowed his eyes and frowned.
"Come, let us eat and then I will return you to the valley."
My sleep deprived brain could not come up with a response so I just stared dumbly at him.
"That is what you want, is it not?"
He looked and sounded so hurt that, had he not captured me yesterday I may have felt sorry for him. Ok, regardless of the fact that he captured me yesterday I did feel sorry for him, which probably explains why I said what I did.
"I'll help you find her, if you want." Yes, I realize my brain obviously went missing but I was going on no sleep and he truly looked pitiful, if pitiful could be that intense.
He raised one eyebrow at me but did not speak.
"I'll help you find your wife; Nerdanel." I'm not sure if he was waiting for me to clarify, but I couldn't think of anything else to say and I just wanted him to stop looking at me like that.
He narrowed his eyes again and regarded me for a few moments longer. I started to fidget. Nerdanel must have had nerves of steel. Just when I thought I couldn't take it any longer, he finally spoke.
"What makes you think she is here, in this wood, that we might find her?"
I shrugged. "You're here. I'm here. Who's to say she's not here too?"
He pressed his lips together. "You're here?"
Now, I did realize to whom I was talking. I did know all of the horrible things for which he was responsible. I also couldn't resist being my usual sarcastic self.
"I am." I smirked at the creator of the Great Jewels. "Standing right in front of you."
His eyes flashed and I held up my hands in front of me in surrender.
"I shouldn't be here any more than you should." I clarified, and then frowned as I thought about what I had said. "Actually, I probably should be here even less than you should." I frowned again; that didn't come out right. But before I could try and correct myself again, Fëanor took a step closer to me and I froze.
"Then we are both aberrations."
His voice was quiet, thoughtful. I wrapped my arms around myself and bit my lip, not sure what to make of his change in demeanor. His eyes looked through me, focused on a point behind my head, as he seemed to try to decide how to proceed.
"I will not be welcomed, should I return with you." He didn't sound upset, just like he was stating a fact. I had to agree with him; he probably wouldn't be.
"So bring me back." I stood up and dusted the leaves off my legs. "I'll see what I can find out about your wife, and you can continue to look in the woods and the area around the valley. We can meet up later and I can tell you what I know."
It seemed like a good idea to me; if nothing else, it would return me to the safety of Rivendell. Fëanor, however, wrinkled his nose as if he smelled something distasteful.
"What? You don't like my plan?"
His stood perfectly still except for his head which he tilted from one side to the other as if he were listening for something. His eyes, which had just been narrowed at me, were wide, scanning the tree line. My stomach twisted.
He held up his palm towards me in a gesture I could not mistake and I stopped talking. After a moment he grabbed my wrist.
"Come," he hissed in a whisper so low I barely heard, jerking me behind him as he jogged towards where the horse was standing."
"What…?" I repeated.
"Urqui!" He spat the word in disgust. "Several, approaching from the east."
He released my wrist when we reached the horse and placed both hands on its neck, leaning in to press his forehead against the animal.
"You're running away?" I whispered loudly.
He spun to face me. "There are too many to battle empty handed. Had I my sword, it would be different. But since I have no weapon…" He clenched his jaw and exhaled through his nose, glaring the whole time. "Yes, we're running away." He turned his back to me and smacked the horse's rump, causing it to run down the hill into the trees.
I gasped in shock but before I could say or do anything, he grabbed me and flipped me over his shoulder and the next think I knew, he had swung us both up into a tree. We climbed; I slipped; he pushed me further up, until we were sufficiently high enough that it would be difficult to spot us from the ground. I steadied myself on the large limb and glared at Fëanor until he looked at me.
"How could you do that to the horse?" I tried to put as much of my anger and shock into the whisper as I could. Instead of recoiling from my potent fury, he laughed.
"There's a large party of orcs headed towards us and you worry for the horse?"
I bit my lip as I nodded and my eyes welled up with tears. I swallowed, hoping they would go away. Fëanor stared at me, his eyes never softening in their regard, but his voice was gentler when he spoke.
"It was a calculated risk. By galloping towards them he would possibly startle them enough that he might pass through their ranks before they could attack. His strike also gave us time to hide. He understood the danger and faced it bravely." And then, almost to himself, he added, "I hope I might one day encounter him again so that I might thank him for his service."
His response so surprised me that I didn't say anything for a while. Fëanor remained silent as well, intently watching something through the trees that I couldn't see.
"Can I ask you something?" I finally said. He nodded without looking at me. "Why don't you have a weapon?"
His eyes flicked briefly to me and then back to the forest. "Do you have a weapon?"
"Um, no, but I wasn't running around in the woods by myself, was I?"
He exhaled sharply and continued to glare into the trees. I waited. He folded his arms across his chest.
"I have been forbidden to carry a weapon."
"Forbidden?" I said, a little louder than a whisper. Terrific. Now, when my life was in danger, the kinslayer decided to follow the rules.
Fëanor reached out and clasped his hand over my mouth. "They are near." He took his hand off my face and folded his arms back across his chest. I saw his foot tapping silently against the tree trunk and realized it must be killing him to be stuck up here instead of being able to fight.
"Since when do you do what you're told?" I whispered.
"I have no choice but to do so." He answered quietly and then frowned. "Do not speak again. Their ears are as keen as mine."
That effectively put an end to our conversation. I pressed myself as close to the tree as I could, willing myself to be invisible to whatever was about to walk into view. Instead of worrying about what was coming and what would happen to us, I wondered what Fëanor meant by having no choice about the weapon. It was odd, to be sure; but then again, everything about the situation was odd.
A twig snapped below us and all thoughts of Fëanor's sword left my mind. Wow, that sounded dirty. You know what I mean; I was certainly not thinking about that at a time like this.
The most hideous, gruesome creature I had ever seen in my life walked by, twenty feet below me. He looked like pus or vomit or fear or evil or scarred, burnt flesh or a combination of all of those. In his one hand he carried a sword, as twisted and scary as he was, and in his other he was holding a rope which I only then realized was attached at the other end to some sort of dog-like creature.
I'd like to take that back and apologize to dogs everywhere. The only feature this thing had in common with a dog was it walked on four legs.
I feared I would fall out of the tree, I was shaking so much. I glanced at Fëanor to see his reaction. He looked like a cat about to pounce; the tension in his muscles was obvious. He met my gaze with an intensity that was becoming familiar. In that familiarity I tried to find comfort, but there was not much to be found. He reached out and clasped my arm, his grip tight but not uncomfortable. I'm not sure if he was trying to reassure me or remind me to keep my mouth shut.
The non-dog below us snuffled at our tree and I gasped, my fear removing my good sense to keep quiet. Fëanor's fingers tightened around my arm and I took deep breaths, trying to slow my heartbeat and prevent another potentially fatal mistake.
Thankfully, the monster below us had not heard me, most likely due to the clamor of the rest of his monster friends who came stomping up the hill and out into the small clearing on top. There were four non-dogs and possibly two dozen orcs and I had to agree with Fëanor's assessment: weaponless, we would have been doomed.
A bird trilled in a nearby tree and I wondered at the audacity of it to pick that moment to draw attention up into the branches so close to where we were hiding. Fëanor narrowed his eyes in the direction of the sound. He obviously was annoyed with the bird as well.
The orcs' attention was now directed entirely too close to us. I began to fear detection when an answering warble sounded from a tree on the other side of the hill. If the first bird had almost killed us, this one was our savior. The orcs' focus was drawn away from us and I breathed a sigh of relief – silently, of course. I saw Fëanor shaking his head out of the corner of my eye and was surprised to see what looked like amusement on his face.
"Of all the…" he muttered, but was interrupted by a shriek from below us. I looked for the source of the sound and found it quickly: the orc I had first seen was lying on the ground, unmoving and seeping black ooze which I assumed was blood, a narrow stick protruding from his chest.
"What…?" I whispered, forgetting myself again.
"We're saved," Fëanor sneered, not sounding at all pleased. I couldn't understand why he wouldn't be elated by this news, or how the felling of one orc meant our salvation, but I didn't get a chance to ask. He jumped up, landing lightly on the branch next to mine.
"I would rather have been slain, I think, than be indebted to some peredhel." The way he said the last word made it sound like a curse. With one last disgusted guttural noise, he leapt up further into the tree and quickly out of my sight. And then all hell broke loose below me.
It was difficult to follow exactly what was happening. First there was a rain of arrows from the trees that took down half of the orcs and all but one of the beasts. Initially, the orcs were scattered and chaotic, but they quickly organized themselves and began to advance on the trees from where the arrows had come. As they approached, two elves swung down and drew swords on the remaining orcs.
The noise was horrible. There was metal clanging and orcs screeching; the dog-beast was making a sound that was a cross between a bark, a roar and a howl until one of the two elves sliced his neck, spattering black-red blood all over himself and everything else within a three foot radius.
I watched as all but two orcs were killed, the bodies of the dead monsters leaking their filthy blood into the ground. The elves made easy work of them, weaving in and out between the orcs in a deadly dance. It was hard to follow their movements; I only could see where they had been by the carnage they left behind.
The battle stopped in a natural lull as the four remaining combatants circled each other. I noticed a tear in the sleeve of one of the elves. The material around the rip was stained dark red. He flexed the arm and switched his sword to the other hand. I shifted in the tree to get a better look at them when I remembered Fëanor's parting words.
I would rather have been slain, I think, than be indebted to some peredhel.
It hadn't registered at the time, what with orcs and non-dogs and elves and swords and blood and whatnot going on below me, but sure enough, as the uninjured elf stepped to his right I was able to catch sight of his face and my stomach dropped.
The orcs resumed their attack, each one swinging his sword at one of the brothers. The elves moved quickly, easily parrying each of the orcs' blows. The orcs drew them apart from each other and I realized I was holding my breath. I let it out slowly, quietly, and tried to remember to breathe as I watched the fight.
The uninjured brother feinted a few times and, after blocking a swing at his head, sliced the stomach of the orc he was fighting. The monster screamed and fell to the ground. The two elves advanced on the one remaining orc. The orc stood his ground, blocking their strikes, but not attacking. I wondered why until I saw the other orc, the one they had left for dead, begin to stir and reach into his boot, pulling out a twisted, mangled knife.
As he grasped the blade I felt my body begin to shake. Neither elf saw him and the other orc did not acknowledge him in any way. He would have a clear shot and would easily take down one of the two elves. It seemed like slow motion as he pulled his arm back. Without thinking I yelled something that sounded a little like, "No," and a lot like a blood-curdling scream.
All heads snapped towards my voice. The orc's arm began to bring the knife forward.
"Behind you!" I screeched, hoping the elves would listen and know I was on their side.
The knife flew through the air as the uninjured brother spun, slashing his sword down and catching the handle of the knife with his blade, deflecting it enough that it fell harmlessly to the ground. At the same time, the other orc slashed at his now-turned back. His brother kicked the orc hard in the midsection, sending him off to the side and allowing his brother to jump out of the way.
I don't know what happened in the battle after that. I am somewhat ashamed to say I covered my eyes and may have started crying a little bit. Soon it was silent. I peeked out from between my fingers to see one brother kneeling on the ground, tending to his wound and the other dragging the corpses into a pile. They didn't seem interested in finding out who had screamed from up in the tree, or maybe they knew I was there all along. I looked around to see if I could get down by myself without falling and breaking my neck. There were several branches that looked like they would serve my needs so I started to make my way down the tree.
I stopped at about five feet. All the orcs were piled together and the one elf started walking towards me, stopping just below the branch on which I was sitting.
"Do you need help getting down?" he asked, as if it was completely natural for me to be sitting up in a tree, watching him and his brother slaughter orcs.
"Mm hmm," was all I managed to say.
He jumped up into the tree and helped me the rest of the way down.
"We saw a horse run past the orcs; was it yours?" he asked once we were back on the ground.
"Mm hmm," I said again.
"Stay with my brother," he commanded. "I will retrieve the animal for you."
He leapt up into the trees and was gone. I leaned against the tree for support. His brother stood, walked over to me and put a hand on my shoulder.
"Thank you," he said.
I shrugged and said, "Sure. No problem," as casually as I could. Of course, there's no way he bought my nonchalance since my body took that moment to succumb to the stress of the day and pass out.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.